If Goodfellas, The Wolf Of Wall Street, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and The Departed are masterful Scorcese, and if Casino, The Aviator, Gangs of New York are great Scorcese, then Shutter Island, Silence, Hugo, and THE IRISHMAN are good Scorcese. Because really, has there ever been a bad Martin Scorcese film? Not that I’ve seen. This being his magnum opus and finale to his unofficial ‘gangster’ trilogy (the other two being Goodfellas and Casino. The Departed was more fictional), I expected maybe a bit…more? And no, not more run time wise (being 3 hrs and 30 minutes). One giant, glaring problem with the movie is that it is just way, way, way, way, long. There were several scenes I felt could’ve been cut to not only secure a smaller run time but maybe be a bit tighter narrative wise so that the end would’ve had a more emotional punch (maybe something between Goodfellas run time of 2 hrs and 30 minutes, and Casino’s run time of 3 hrs) Don’t get me wrong, I still liked the movie quite a bit, and the de-aging technology was absolutely phenomenal, but in the long run case of Martin Scorcese’s new movie, I felt like a little less would’ve been more.
But you get some great Scorcese scenes in here, particularly when he does his thing of making a scene nice, smooth, and rolling (literally) with a dolly, going into one room, back out, around, then back in. All the camera work in this film is stunning. And you get the great Scorcese acting. Everyone in here does a great job, to DeNiro, Pacino, and Pesci (although I can’t really see any acting nominations coming, a hard maybe with Pacino) to even Anna Paquin’s only two lines in the movie, every nuance performance makes a powerful statement. And this based on a true story tale is very interesting, and Wikipedia again makes more of a perfect log line then I could’ve: “The film follows Frank Sheeran (De Niro), a truck driver who becomes a hitman and gets involved with mobster Russell Bufalino (Pesci) and his crime family, including his time working for the powerful Teamster Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino).” I like my gangster dramas grounded, real, and down to Earth. And even though a lot of reports said that when Frank Sheeran divulged all this information near the end of his life, that he was more than likely full of it, everything that happens seemed real, like it really could’ve taken place, so I was completely sold.
The film uses its violence in just the right way, it isn’t over excessive or glorifying, and all the time periods it went through felt like those time periods. So why in the hell am I only saying it is good Scorcese, but not great or masterful? Again, it’s the run time. And I know the run time is supposed to make it feel like you were with Frank Sheeran all his life so when that last shot happens in the film, the message about these people’s lonely and dangerous lives really gets into your head, there are plenty of movies that achieved the same effect but were 45 minutes to an hour shorter. Constantly throughout the film, I was pointing to my television screen saying, “okay, didn’t really need that,” “nope, didn’t need that” and the film goes all Return of the King on us and has multiple endings, which lessens the emotional punch that the final shot is supposed to have.
The film still has an emotional punch, don’t get me wrong, it’s just lessened by the excessive amount of time it takes to make those points. And it just made me a little disappointed. Emphasis on little. Because the rest of the film is pretty great. Scorcese picks the perfect oldie music to surround his film, the editing and score is perfect, and the pacing is pretty good even though a couple of scenes go on too long. I’m not going to make the same mistake as Scorcese and have this review go on and on and on and on. So while I’m not going to make you an offer you can’t refuse to watch The Irishman, if you’ve got three hours and a half hours to kill, I can recommend that you can’t go wrong with another yard spinning new (and maybe last) gangster tale from a master class director.